During his appearance at COP26 Opens in a new tab in Glasgow on November 8-9, 2021, President Obama had a call to action for young people on the frontlines of the intensifying climate crisis: Keep pushing forward. Keep demanding more.
In remarks delivered to summit attendees, President Obama spoke directly to young people. “My message to young people begins with acknowledging you are right to be frustrated. Folks in my generation have not done enough to deal with a potentially cataclysmic problem that you now stand to inherit. But I also want to share some advice my mother used to give me if I was feeling anxious or angry or depressed or scared. She’d look at me and she’d say, ‘Don’t sulk, get busy. Get to work and change what needs to be changed.’ And luckily, that’s exactly what young people around the world are doing right now.”
Here at the Obama Foundation, we’re proud to be inspiring, empowering, and connecting emerging leaders to tap into their collective power and help them take their work to the next level. After all, we have no time to lose.
That’s also why, after delivering his rousing call to action, President Obama sat down with a group of emerging leaders from around the world who are doing their part to protect the planet.
Together, they discussed the tension in Glasgow between activists on the streets and negotiators at the conference and how to work together long after returning home from COP26 to push for progress beyond the commitments made during the week-long summit.
President Obama acknowledged the importance of having both activists and negotiators come together to discuss how they would ensure that commitments made at COP26 would be fulfilled.
Get to know the participants who were part of the conversation below, then learn more about the Obama administration’s work to address climate change here.
Juan Carlos Monterrey Gómez – Panama – Scholar, University of Chicago 2018-2019
Juan Carlos Monterray Gómez is the lead climate negotiator for Panama and co-coordinator of the ambition agenda for AILAC and the Cartagena Dialogue. He is the Founder of Climate Resilient and has vast experience on climate transparency, carbon markets and nature-based solutions.
Sheila J. Babauta – Northern Mariana Islands – Leaders Asia-Pacific 2019
Sheila J. Babauta is a Representative serving in the 22nd Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives and is passionate about contributing to a brighter Marianas. Sheila holds key leadership positions as Chairwoman of the Natural Resources Committee, Vice-Chairwoman of the Education Committee, and Floor Leader of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation. She also currently serves as Chairwoman of the Friends of the Marianas Trench (FOMT) and as Secretary of Our Common Wealth 670 (OCW670).
Guilherme Syrkis – Brazil – Scholar, University of Chicago 2019-2020
Guilherme Syrkis is the executive director of the Brazil Climate Center (Centro Brasil no Clima - CBC), a think-and-do tank. Strictly nonpartisan, the CBC works to build a long term strategy to reach net-zero. He also develops joint projects with the European Union, UNEP, and various national and foreign NGOs.
Christian Vanizette – France – Scholar, Columbia University 2019-2020
Christian Vanizette is the co-founder of Makesense.org, a global network of 100,000 citizens and entrepreneurs committed to solving social and environmental issues through skilled volunteerism and rapid innovation workshops.
Nima Tisdall – Denmark – Leaders Europe 2020
Nima Tisdall is the CEO and co-founder of Blue Lobster, a marketplace where low-impact fishermen can sell their catch directly to consumers, ensuring fresh fish and fair pay. Check out what a day in Nima’s life is like by clicking here.
Luisa Neubauer – Germany – Leaders Europe 2020
Luisa Neubauer is the head of Fridays For Future in Germany, the largest youth climate justice movement in history. Fridays For Future fights for climate justice everywhere, for everyone, by acting now, changing the discourse, and demanding climate justice in more than 100 countries.
Hannah Martin – United Kingdom – Leaders Europe 2020
Hannah Martin is a longtime climate activist and the co-founder and co-executive director of Green New Deal UK, which works to build the movement to deliver and sustain a Green New Deal in the UK. She is passionate about strengthening and supporting diverse communities and young people to be powerful organizers for change. This past August, Hannah and her team launched “Green New Deal Rising”—a major new youth-led campaign that is designed to make the Green New Deal an era-defining issue in the UK.
Rachid Ennassiri – Morocco – Leaders Africa 2019
Rachid Ennassiri is the founder of The Moroccan Youth Centre for Sustainable Energy, which aims to provide dialogue and strengthen the capacities and the role of young people in renewable energy and energy efficiency open to its local, national, and international environment.
Ayman Cherkaoui – Morocco – Leaders Africa 2018
Ayman Cherkaoui is the coordinator for the Mohammed VI Prize for the Climate and Sustainable Development as well as senior manager, strategic development at the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection. He is also Lead Counsel for Climate Change at the Center for International Sustainable Development Law.
Claude Marie Térence Andtoungou – Gabon – Leaders Africa 2019
Claude Marie Térence Andtoungou is currently a Research Analyst with the Gabon Mining Company and for the Directorate General of Budget and Public Finance. She is also the General Manager of Idyanja, a youth-driven nonprofit micro-credit program that is an example of how giving back to the community is a way to address poverty in Africa.
Elvis Ossindji-Binou – Gabon – Leaders Africa 2019
Elvis has been the CEO & Director of Gabon Mining Company since August 2021. He previously served as Energy Advisor of the Head of State His Excellence Ali Bongo Ondimba. He is also the founder of the NGO Nzila Leaders, which aims to move communities in Gabon closer to the 17 Sustainable Development goals by 2030.
Andrew Fagerheim – New York, United States – Columbia University’s Climate School
Andrew Fagerheim, a sophomore at Columbia University, is a youth climate leader from Homer, New York. In Homer, he led multiple youth-driven climate action projects: he co-founded the annual Central New York Youth Climate Summit, helped install a solar charging station for electronics at his high school, and presented at Summits around the state. You can learn more about Columbia University’s Climate School by clicking here.
Eduarda Zoghbi – Brazil – Columbia University’s Climate School
Hailing from Brazil, Eduarda Zoghbi is a political scientist working towards her master’s in public administration at Columbia University, where she is concentrating in energy and environment and specializing in gender and public policy. Before attending graduate school, Eduarda served as a climate change consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank in Brazil, where she worked with the Brazilian government to manage and implement projects related to sustainable infrastructure, green finance, forestry, and agriculture.
Jack Harries – United Kingdom – Filmmaker
Jack Harries is a documentary filmmaker, producer, and presenter with an interest in climate change and the natural world. Jack uses his YouTube channel Opens in a new tab as a space to communicate climate issues and spotlight the incredible activists and organizations fighting for change.
As part of his “Seat at the Table” series, he attended COP26 to interview world leaders, including President Obama, about how to find common ground to enact lasting and effective policy solutions to climate change, and other pressing issues.